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Life Under The Rainbow: One LGBTQ+ Student’s Experience On Campus

Photos and Story by Willow Mollenkopf

How do you navigate the intersection of being an OSU student and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community? Izzy McCale walks this path every day. McCale is a bisexual/trans student studying Political Science and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. OSU has been a place for McCale’s self-image and confidence to be drastically shaped through involvement in student organizations, but it’s also a place where they have to tiptoe around in order to avoid discrimination and disrespect.

Within their first year at OSU, McCale jumped right in, as many first-years do, and joined multiple clubs and groups, specifically ones that are LGBTQ+ based, to find and build an accepting community that they didn’t have in their hometown. One of those organizations was Pride OSU.

McCale describes Pride as an LGBTQ+ organization that “creates a safe environment for members to gather, have fun, and even learn a little about the community. It’s also one that walks a fine line between a social and educational organization in order to meet the needs of all members, as well as creating the space for many different forms of communication.”

After attending a few meetings, McCale said, “I started feeling confident in my own skin, as well as an increase in self-worth…I found myself at Pride.”

This school year, McCale is sitting on the Pride executive board as secretary, with the goal of passing on the feeling of acceptance and validation to all of its members. McCale credits a lot of their personal development to the organization.

“I’m a product of being involved in a community and being on a campus with so many people that I was bound to find someone I could connect with.”

McCale lives off-campus in a house with many other students that they cheerfully call, “The Big Gay House: Sapphire Edition.” While OSU has been a place for McCale to flourish, it’s not without its faults.

McCale believes, “OSU is one of the safest places for an LGBTQ+ student compared to a lot of other institutions. However, it doesn’t save them from criticism by the community about their LGBTQ+ policy shortcomings.”

McCale expressed, “I genuinely worry that if I was outed to my political science cohort that my opinions would be respected less by my peers as well as the professors. Whether it is unfounded or not, it is a fear that I have.”

This valid fear is not limited to the political science community. Many academic fields still have an ingrained stigma toward the LGBTQ+ community. OSU tries to cope with this by having training available to the staff on how to harbor a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. However, this training is only done on a voluntary basis, for which McCale criticizes the university. One of McCale’s goals on campus is to make it mandatory for staff and professors.

When telling people their preferred pronouns, McCale has all too often had people refuse to use their pronouns correctly. Using someone’s preferred pronouns is an easy way to be respectful and help the person deal with gender dysphoria. A significant part of being in the LGBTQ+ community is the act of coming out.

If only coming out was as simple as it seems in the media. You’d come out once, and then you’re done. Everyone just knows. Thanks to the heteronormative society we live in today, coming out is a lifelong process. It’s repetitive and often times nerve-wracking, just like it can be in regards to correcting someone when they use the wrong pronoun.

McCale grew up in Vermillion, OH, which like a lot of small Ohio towns is not known for being entirely welcoming toward the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not uncommon that people find themselves in the same situation as McCale, being out to their friends at school but not to their family back home.

“The friends I have made at OSU give me a cushion to fall back on in terms of coming out.”

They have been making the most of their time at OSU by getting in, staying involved

with, and giving back to the LGBTQ+ community. Though there are challenges to be met at the intersection of student and LGBTQ+ individual, McCale faces every challenge with their head held high and a determination to create change.

McCale’s best advice?

“Having a support system and community is one of the most important things you can have as a LGBTQ+ individual. That, and a bottle of whiskey.”

Willow Mollenkopf

Willow Mollenkopf


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